We can follow the discipline of Shu ha ri to master an artwork.

Japanese martial arts concept of training and learning. Its abstraction can be used in an agile environment. Shu-ha-ri is used to tailor a teaching concept based on stages of learning.

Shu Ha Ri. It is a Japanese martial arts concept that has been adapted and applied to other fields, including software development and agile methodologies. Shu Ha Ri represents three stages of learning and mastery:

Shu (Learn)

Shu (守) – “Obeying” or “following” the rules and techniques established by a teacher or master. This stage is focused on building a strong foundation of knowledge and skills.

The starting phase. Student follows the teaching of his master without a need to understand the theory behind. He should concentrate on how to do the task in the way his master does.

Ha (Detach)

Ha (破) – “Breaking away” or “diverging” from the established rules and techniques to explore new possibilities and develop a personal style or approach. This stage involves experimentation and creativity.

Second phase where a student starts to branch out. Underlying principles and theory are coming into focus since the basic practices are working. Learnings from other masters are starting to be integrated into his practice.

Ri (Transcend)

Ri (離) – “Leaving” or “transcending” the rules and techniques to achieve a state of mastery and intuitive understanding. This stage involves a deep level of insight and self-expression.

The end of learning from others. In this phase the student is learning from his own practice, creating his own approaches and adapting to his own circumstances. The student is becoming a master.

The concept of Shu Ha Ri is often used to describe the process of learning and mastering a skill, such as martial arts.

Shu Ha Ri: The Japanese Art of Mastery

Shu Ha Ri is a Japanese concept that refers to the stages of learning and mastery in traditional Japanese martial arts. The concept has since been adapted to various other fields, including business, education, and the arts.

Shu Ha Ri is a three-stage process that describes how individuals progress from learning the basics to mastering a skill. Each stage represents a distinct phase of development, and each stage builds upon the previous one.

Shu: Learn the Basics

The first stage of Shu is all about learning the fundamentals. In this stage, the learner focuses on mastering the basic techniques, movements, and principles of a discipline. They learn through repetition and practice, developing muscle memory and ingraining the fundamentals into their being.

During this stage, learners are expected to follow their teacher’s guidance strictly. They do not question or deviate from the instructions given, but instead, they try to perfect the techniques they are taught. This phase is essential to building a strong foundation and developing a solid understanding of the discipline.

Ha: Break the Rules

The second stage of Shu Ha Ri is Ha. In this stage, the learner begins to break away from the strict adherence to the rules and techniques learned in the Shu stage. They start to experiment and improvise, adapting the techniques to their own needs and style.

During this stage, the learner begins to understand the underlying principles of the discipline and how to apply them creatively. They start to incorporate their own ideas and methods, building upon what they have learned in the Shu stage.

Ri: Master the Art

The third and final stage of Shu Ha Ri is Ri. In this stage, the learner becomes a master of the discipline. They have internalized the fundamentals, experimented with the techniques, and developed their own unique style.

In this stage, the master has transcended the techniques and principles of the discipline and has become one with it. They are no longer bound by the rules but have learned to trust their intuition and creativity fully. They can create new techniques and approaches, innovate, and push the boundaries of the discipline.


Shu Ha Ri is a powerful concept that applies to any field of study or practice. It emphasizes the importance of building a strong foundation and mastering the basics before moving on to experimentation and innovation. By following this three-stage process, individuals can develop a deep understanding and mastery of any discipline.

Whether you are a martial artist, musician, painter, or business professional, the concept of Shu Ha Ri can help you achieve your goals and become a true master of your craft.

Cover photo from: https://management30.com/blog/shu-ha-ri-agile-leadership/

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